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Our Blog: Education
September 24, 2015
Georgina's visit to Malawi

Here are a few snapshots from Georgina's recent visit to Malawi.

Community members participating in a pump maintenance training facilitated by our partner Pump Aid in Beni Village, Mchinji District, Malawi

A basic handwashing facility constructed by the community with support from Pump Aid in Yohani Village, Mchinji District, Malawi

Children having fun in Pembamayo Village, Mchinji District, Malawi

Community celebration in Kang'oma Village, Lilongwe District, Malawi with partner Global Hope Mobilization

Women's self-help group meeting at Kang'oma Village, Lilongwe District in Malawi with partner Global Hope Mobilization

A renovated water pump in Kiwalo Village, Kumponda Traditional Authority, Blantrye District in Malawi with partner Action For Environmental Sustainability (AFES)

June 2, 2015
Christmas cakes are wildly popular

With support from Vibrant Village Foundation, Eco-Agric is training 30 young Ugandan women in catering and hairdressing this year. Most of the students in this vocational program had dropped out of school and are now bolstering their marketable skills thanks to this initiative.

Karen Kijaru, a 23-year-old from Kitukutwe village in southern Uganda, started the program in October and had the idea to start a cake business. 

Karen rented an oven and starting baking Christmas cakes to sell during the holiday season. Word about her business spread quickly and much to her surprise, the cakes were wildly popular. When Karen received the first 120,000 Uganda Shillings (UGX), or $40, from her cake business, her initial reaction was, “Oh my, I didn’t know I could do something productive.” With the profit from her first batch of cakes, Karen bought milk and clothes for her three-year-old child and paid her bills. 

In the New Year, Karen’s customers continued to request cakes, which she sells for UGX 80,000 each ($26). The cakes are large, with decorated icing sugar and can serve over 60 people for birthdays and big parties. Since December, she has earned UGX 320,000 ($107).

Karen has ambitions to grow her business, but her biggest challenge is saving enough to purchase her own oven. Currently Karen rents an oven, which is costly. Having her own oven would not only save her money but give her more flexibility and control with her business, which is important for a young entrepreneur. 

Eco-Agric is looking for ways to help purchase a communal oven and identify a space that would benefit Karen and others in needs of kitchen facilities for their catering businesses. Several other participants of the vocational program are interested in making bread, mandazi (fried donuts) and other items that can be sold in the local market. 

Despite her short-term success, Karen recognizes the need to be patient as she stewards her new business but she is enthusiastic about the road ahead.

April 21, 2015
Safe Spaces for Children in Refugee Camps

This story was adapted from a recent report prepared by Mercy Corps staff

In 2014, Vibrant Village Foundation granted $103,961 to Mercy Corps for the construction of child-friendly spaces at the Azraq Refugee Camp in Jordan. Since the Syrian conflict began in March 2011, more than 600,000 refugees have entered into Jordan seeking safety. The Syrian families who have been displaced have had their lives and social structures substantially disrupted. They have often witnessed violence and disturbing events, and many are now far from their relatives and friends. Stress, fear and anxiety among children and parents can contribute to domestic violence, abuse and neglect, especially for women and children. 

In this context, it was crucial to establish child-friendly spaces in refugee camps to provide opportunities for kids to play, learn and receive social support in a safe and protective environment. 


In February, Mercy Corps completed the construction of four playgrounds in the child friendly spaces, with funding from Vibrant Village Foundation. These playgrounds provide safe places for up to 150 children each day, where they are protected from harm and can reinstate some sense of normalcy. 

The spaces also provide opportunity for children to play and socialize with other children and develop life skills. All spaces are open six days a week and staffed by Mercy Corps trained Syrian volunteers. These incredibly valuable team members provide a number of direct activities for the children including structured psychosocial activities such as arts and crafts projects and storytelling. Syrian volunteers also support community outreach within the camps, working directly with Mercy Corps Community Child Protection Committees. These committees are responsible for spreading awareness on child protection and available facilities and services.

Zayed (photographed left) is a twenty-two year old volunteer with the program. From his perspective, these child-friendly spaces are helping the children from “being lost”. As he explains, “After installing the play complex, the number of children is higher than before – it has become a part of motivation for them.” 

In the original program plan, the playgrounds were to have a sand ground cover. However, the sand requires continual maintenance and can blow away in the high summer winds. Mercy Corps is exploring artificial grass turf as a longer-lasting option. In addition to being more durable, the artificial turf adds much needed color to the barren, sandy landscape of the camp. The green on its own has a soothing and calming feeling, a bit of artificial nature in an otherwise desolate setting.              

Photos: Courtesy of Mercy Corps